blogging Archives - Harris Social Media

Could social media monitoring have predicted and helped avert Egypt’s crisis?

on Jan 29 in blogging, facebook, monitoring, News, politics, social media, thought leaders, Twitter posted by

Egyptian protester (Reuters)Much of the press coverage of Egypt’s present meltdown has concerned the influence of social media. Organizers used Twitter, Facebook and other channels to get out their message and instigate a popular uprising.

Egyptian authorities belatedly recognized the power of social media on Wednesday last week. They cut off access to Internet sites such as Twitter and Facebook, according to the UK Guardian news site.

Evidently social media has been an essential tool for protesters to coordinate their efforts. Egypt had already cracked down on bloggers, and according to the Guardian piece, “in 2009 the Committee to Protect Journalists listed Egypt as one of the 10 worst countries for bloggers because of the tendency to arrest [government] critics.”

Such a heavy-handed dictatorial approach betrays a profound lack of understanding about social media’s power to communicate ideas.

Is it possible, with better understanding of social media, that this crisis could have been averted?

Sophisticated social media monitoring tools could easily have picked up “buzz” weeks or even months before protesters took to the streets. Social media monitoring would have given the Egyptian government the chance to evaluate the response to its proactive measures and to adjust its policies accordingly.

A proactive approach might have afforded the Egyptian government time to react with conciliatory measures. Monitoring could have identified thought leaders and influencers, to whom the government could have reached out with an olive branch. Would they have avoided the type of instinctive crackdown that contributed to the present crisis? Maybe not. But in any case, social media monitoring would have helped the government judge the zeitgeist and to take appropriate pre-emptive action. Instead, they are now on the defensive, and if history is any lesson, have already lost.

The Mubarak government missed the opportunity to manage change gradually. For such lack of leadership, perhaps they deserve what’s coming.

Is Apple’s Ping a Facebook-killer?

on Sep 02 in blogging, business, facebook, strategy, tools, trends posted by

Apple’s Ping logoBlogger Jesse Stay just wrote a thoughtful post about Apple’s launch of Ping its music social platform for sharing music.

Just announced by the company’s CEO Steve Jobs, Ping is a social application within Apple’s popular desktop app iTunes.

Jesse called Ping “the biggest announcement we saw come out of Expo, primarily because it’s of importance not just to Apple followers, but to every consumer in this digital age.”

I agree with Jesse, that Apple is going about this the right way, sticking to their core offering and growing the network to build a user base.

But I think Jesse’s off the mark when he suggests, “This is perhaps bigger than Facebook.” Other authors expressed the thought even more directly. Nick O’Neill asserts that “Apple Has Become Facebook’s Biggest Threat With Ping.” And so on.

Is Ping a Facebook-killer? I don’t think so. Even in the longer term, if Ping become the Apple’s Social Graph, as Jesse suggests, it has a lot of catching up to do. For one thing, Facebook already has more than twice as many users. iTunes users will need to transition from using it mainly as a desktop app to using it online. And of course, Facebook offers much more than just music. In fact, music is the one thing FB doesn’t do particularly well.

MySpace is the musician’s social network. So if anything, Ping will challenge MySpace. This makes sense — MySpace is in a downward spiral anyway. Apple is too smart to take on Facebook. MySpace is lower hanging fruit. Blogger Austin Carr would probably agree. In his Fast Company article, he wrote “”Ping won’t replace Twitter or Facebook… But MySpace should be scared as hell.”

I probably won’t use Ping that much. music is a personal thing, a rather private enjoyment. It’s never been much of a social activity for me, online or off. I’m not especially interested in the musical tastes of my friends. And I’m not too fussed if they’re interested in what I enjoy. But perhaps I’m a minority, and folks like me won’t stop Ping from being successful.

Ten steps to evolving your personal brand

on Oct 18 in blogging, branding, facebook, google, hints and tips, linkedin, reputation management, social networks, strategy, tools, Twitter posted by

Anyone who has an online presence needs to understand the importance of personal brand. The person on Facebook who got fired because she posted on her profile that she hated her job did not get the concept of personal brand.

But there are many social media channels. Most people have several profiles, which they maintain to a greater or lesser extent. What is the point of perfecting your LinkedIn profile if you inadvertently sabotage it with a lackluster blog or indiscrete Tweets? The solution is to evolve your personal brand.

By evolving your brand, you start from simple principles and create an increasingly complex presence. Before you start on any of this, you must understand the process of biological evolution. Broadly speaking, it is a process of experimentation, ruthless selection, survival and propagation of what is successful. Here are 10 steps to implement as you evolve your personal brand.

1. Establish goals –– Decide what you want to do with your personal brand. First and foremost brand is about perception. Your basic goal is to craft perception of what people think. What do people find when they search for you on Google? Do you want to be seen as an expert, thought leader or influencer?

2. Consider your audience — Who are you communicating with via social media? If your personal brand is your professional persona, what kinds of topics interest your audience the most? Find the common ground with the topics you are knowledgeable about. By sharing your unique knowledge you provide value to your target audience. It’s vital also to consider the kinds of online behavior typical for your audience. Does your audience create and upload content, will they comment on blog posts, or are they content to passively consume content? (Charlene Li’s “ladder” model of social media participation is a good starting point to classifying user behavior.)

3. Research platforms — If you want to use Facebook just for family and friends, it might be unwise to “friend” work colleagues as did the unfortunate Facebook user in the example above. If your professional network is mainly on LinkedIn, tweak your profile and engage on Answers and Discussions. Bear in mind your audience might not be active on the platforms on which you’re active. For instance, in regulated industries (e.g., pharma) you’re unlikely to have a large audience in social networks. Do some research to find out where your peers are. In choosing platforms consider whether it gets traffic (one reason Facebook is the 800 pound gorilla), relevance, the value of content and if you are comfortable using it.

4. Create a strategy — Once you have identified where your audience is active online, and what kinds of topics you want to engage in, create a social media strategy. A common mistake starting out is to assume strategy is simply engaging your audience. It is not. Think of strategy as similar to a business plan. Your strategy needs to include long- and short-term goals, evaluation of the competitive landscape, resources you plan on using, success benchmarks, a tactical summary and a schedule for executing tactics. Be sure to try something new and unexpected. Mutations are the raw material for evolution. You have to have unusual approaches to survive in a competitive and changing environment.

5. Implement your strategy — The schedule in your strategic plan will guide your day-to-day activities: for example,  what to blog or tweet about, how many posts or tweets, what kinds of content and what kind of integration (such as cross-linking with your other online presences on LinkedIn, blog comments, forum posts and so on). A common mistake for beginners is to start their social media branding at this stage, rather than including implementation as part of a strategic plan.

6. Measure your results — Your strategic plan’s benchmarks will include metrics for you to assess your progress. There are endless different ways to measure social media. If you are advertising, a good start is the IAB’s Social Media Ad Metrics Definitions. If you have a WordPress blog, use a plugin that provides a good overview of basic stats. For more detailed stats, Google Analytics are a must. You can set behavioral goals such as a conversion or clicking on a link to directly measure the impact of specific site content. If you are on Facebook or Twitter, these applications provide a variety of stats. On Facebook, the Fan page provides information on the number of views, fans, uploads and so on. Several third party sites provide stats to allow you to track your progress on Twitter, such as the number of followers, posts, and URLs clicked. There are endless permutations. Again, you need to experiment and see what works for you. (Introduction to social media metrics)

7. Compare your results with your goals — Selection is a key step in evolving your personal brand. In order to begin the selection process you, see if your results are meeting your goals. When you compare your results with your goals, it will help to refine your goals and to get more specific. Say your goal is to be the top blogger in your industry. How will you measure whether you are the top blogger? You could use your Technorati rank or traffic. Or may be you just want to be a better blogger. You could use the change in number of comments over time, so traffic or rank would be less important. The key is to focus on what is most important relative to your goal.

8. Continue what is working — Once you have the first seven steps, the rest is easy. Simply keep up with what works. Do more of what gets positive results, whether it’s more traffic, more comments, or whatever.

9. Quit what is not working — Do less of what doesn’t work. This is selection — arguably the most important step of the evolutionary process. Selection is ruthless. You need to be too. You might have to give up something that’s precious or important. The dinosaurs were awesome animals. They’re all dead. Extinct. For ever. You need to think along those lines. What’s not working? What is diminishing your survivability? If it’s not working, kill it.

10. Start all over — Yup. Evolution is iterative. Just like the environment, the online ecosystem is always changing. Life’s evolution is always ongoing, and always will be. To survive and thrive in the online ecosystem, you too will need to continually evolve. Start from Step 1 above and continue the process as long as you want to stay in the race.

Does it work? Sure. If you stick to your plan and persist, your personal brand will evolve and you will get results. Here’s a screen shot of my stats on this blog since have focused on evolving my personal brand. It isn’t the only measure of success, but it illustrates that you can evolve your personal brand applying the above ten steps.

Know your enemy and yourself to succeed in social media

on Oct 02 in blogging, business, hints and tips, social media, strategy, thought leaders posted by

“If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.” — Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu was a 5th century BC Chinese war commander whose wisdom, summarized in The Art of War, reaches us through the centuries. Sun Tzu’s teachings have been applied to politics, culture and business, as well as warfare. 

In social media, you need to know your competition (“enemy”) and yourself if you are going to be successful. The first step is to understand who your competition is, what they are saying and where they are saying it.

For example, if you blog about food, you’ll want to research the various categories that are being discussed online such as recipes, ingredients, organic food, pairing food with drink and so on. These may all be specialist areas your competition is blogging about. Can you compete head to head, or can you exploit a gap?

Next, research who are the influencers and thought leaders. Get onto Technorati and look for bloggers who have the highest authority and page rank. You can use to check on the monthly traffic of these websites. Compare with your own stats. You can use the difference to set some goals. No goals, no success. Remember to research forums. A lot of conversation takes place on discussion boards. Use Boardreader to look for prominent websites.

From there, observe. Take time to figure out what tactics your competition are using. Are they focused on content? Are they highly networked through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn? Try to understand what makes them tick. 

Correlate your knowledge of the competition with what you can and can’t do. By comparing your abilities with competitors tactics you can position yourself where you are likely to have the most impact.

(Excerpted from my forthcoming book: How to win on the social media battlefield: Lessons from Sun Tzu)

What is lifestreaming?

on Jul 30 in blogging, social media, technology, tools, trends posted by

A few months back I blogged about the need for tools that allow us to aggregate and disseminate content to the Web.

As we become indundated by ever increasing information flows, it makes sense that we organize the data into coherent streams.

Lifestreaming differs from a blog. In a lifestream widgets and applications collect together that author’s content, from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and wherever, and present in one place. According to Sarah Perez on ReadWriteWeb, “Lifestreaming is a new way of documenting the activities surrounding your life using a chronologically-ordered collection of information.” Perez cites the example of Julia Allison, whose blog is “no more than a short collection of photos, videos, copy-and-pasted emails, random thoughts, links, and general over-sharing.”

Recently, some bloggers have adopted this “life-streaming” concept as an extension or evolution of the typical blog. According to some, “blogging is dead.” Darren Rowse, author of the popular Problogger, asked “Should I Quit Blogging?” in a July 1 article. Steven Rubel, head of interactive at Edelman, disavowed blogging altogether, moving his content onto a dedicated lifestream platform Posterous. (Incidently, it took me a while to track down Rubel’s lifestream. You can find it here.)

So is Perez’s cynicism justified, or are we looking at the future of communications?

Are blogs dead? Not necessarily. Lifestreaming offers a mode of communication which people will use as they need. It won’t suit every consumer or every creator. But most likely, it will grow its own niche and rank with blogs, Twitter as a mainstream format for presenting information.

One area of practice that needs improvement is on privacy settings. Each tool has its own system, so a user cannot readily manage his or her preferences in one place.

Developers may develop a tool that can do that, but such a tool will not be useful until external applications (Facebook, et al.) adopt a standard format for users to configure their privacy settings.

Other example lifestreams (or blogs that so label themselves):

Lifestream articles:


Lies, damn lies and social media statistics

on May 28 in blogging, business, links, marketing, social media, social networks, statistics, trends posted by

According to a recent study by Knowledge Networks fewer than 5 percent of social-media users age 13-54 “regularly turn to [social media] sites for guidance on purchase decisions” in a range of common product/service categories.

The study created a flurry of dissent among social media marketers, who were quick to point out flaws in the research.

Certainly its sweeping conclusions seem to conflict with findings from other studies that show social media does influence decisions.For example, in a survey of women online (PDF), “45% of survey respondents decided to purchase an item after reading about it on a blog.”

Part of the problem, as pointed out by blogger Chris Baggot is that the research focused on use of social networks but the report uses the term social media.

One blogger in the UK opines that the study is a “perfect example of a lack of genuine understanding of the medium.”

So how does a respected research organization fall flat on its face? Let’s see why. Three significant featues of the study that make it statistically questionable.

  • Conducted over a less than a week, from March 10 through 16, 2009.
  • Used a closed group of “502 members of KnowledgePanel®”
  • Defines “social media” as 27 pre-selected social networks (Facebook, MySpace, etc.).

Every college student who has been through Statistics 101 knows that the reliability of results depends on sample size. That is, using a pre-selected group within such a short time frame is bound to lead to questions of statistical validity.

The online results do not provide error estimates (plus or minus percentage points). Again, a small sample size will yield high error estimates, which hinders drawing reliable conclusions.

In the aforementioned study of women in social media, the researchers sampled a population of 2,281 women over a month (March 2009). Overall, 85 percent of women responded that a purcase decision had been influenced by a recommendation or customer experience posted on a blog. The Knowledge Network study omits blogs entirely, so it was wrong to suggest its conclusions apply to all of social media.

The age distribution of the sample population, characterized as 13 to 54 is also misleading. How many 13 year olds are turning anywhere for “guidance on purchase decisions”? A more meaningful approach would have to show the data divided up among age groups.

In their haste to jump on the social media bandwagon, Knowledge Networks made several basic marketing research errors. Shame on them for muddying the waters, when so many budgets and jobs depend on accurate conclusions about the value of social media.

Knowledge Networks’ “How People Use Social Media” Misses The Point Completely
Knowledge Networks: Social Media and Marketing…not much Intent
Social Media Doesn’t Drive Purchases?

I’m presenting at Science Online 09

on Jan 15 in blogging posted by

Just a heads-up that I will be at Science Online 09 this weekend. It’s the third year running this successful non-conference has been held. It’s at the Sigma Xi Center in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. The registration limit of 200 filled fast, but most of the events will be Webcast or otherwise made available on the fly.

While the focus is on science communication, much of the content will be useful for communicators generally.

You can keep up with events as they unfold on the conference Web site:

Twime: Apportion Tweeting versus blogging to lead

on Jan 13 in blogging, quote of the day, thought leaders, Twitter posted by

Thought of the Day, Jan 13, 2009

I can’t abide absolutism, so a blanket statement such Ben Yoskovitz’s is bound to raise hackles. Ben is making the point, it seems, that Twitter is not a tool to create authority or thought leadership. He’s quite right, but is just stating the obvious. Of course, you can’t have a detailed exposition on X or Y in 140 characters. Ben creates a straw man, then proceeds to knock it down. No big deal there. What would have been more interesting, would be to look at why 60 per cent of top Twitter users are bloggers. Are these trying to create authority and thought leadership through Twitter? Nope. These “thought leaders” and “authorities” see Twitter simply as a vehicle to connect with others and thereby disseminate their content. Many Tweets include links to blogs or other online conent. Why? To share and communicate, not to build authority. Of course, if you spend all your time on FriendFeed or Twitter, as Ben points out, your blog activity is going to diminish. Any mature writer should be able to portion their time appropriately to prioritize what is important to them.

“But you can’t build authority and thought leadership through Twitter or other microblogging services (or aggregator-type services) like FriendFeed. Not unless you previously had some authority and reputation through blogging.”

— Ben Yoskovitz
You Can’t Build Authority and Thought Leadership via Twitter

Can Twitter pay your rent?

on Dec 18 in blogging, hints and tips, quote of the day, Twitter posted by

Thought of the Day, Dec 18, 2008

How ironic that Twitter is having such trouble creating a viable business model when so many others are making money from the service. Twitter helps brands save money by allowing cheaper promotions and fewer support calls or emails. Third party apps are using the API and making money on subscription fees or ad revenue. Authors are making money blogging about Twitter or writing books. Blogger Marshall Kirkpatrick claims Twitter is paying his rent by giving him story leads that he turns into paid articles. Now, if only Twitter management had it so easy…

“People laugh at Twitter, and they can go ahead and laugh for all I care, but I’m here to tell you that it can be invaluable. Aside from the personal connectedness and relationship maintenance it’s good for, let’s be honest – it’s paying my rent.”

— Marshall Kirkpatrick

Twitter is Paying My Rent

Obama’s success? Integrating online with the real world

on Nov 06 in blogging, quote of the day, social media, thought leaders posted by

Quote of the Day, Nov 6, 2008

“The key is tightly integrating online activity with tasks people can perform in the real world… Yes, there are blogs and Listservs, but the point of the campaign is to get someone to donate money, make calls, write letters, organize a house party. The core of the software is having those links to taking action—to doing something.”

— Jascha Franklin-Hodge, Chief Technology Officer, Blue State Digital

How Obama Really Did It
By David Talbot, Technology Review